Have you ever wondered how long it takes when a writer sets out to bring her prose up to industry standards and get a book published? Well wonder no longer, for here, in excruciating detail, is just that. The writing classes, the years of revision, the writer’s conferences, the years and years and years of rejection. Yep, I recorded them all…well most of them. If you have a little time, then by all means, enjoy.
Writing process for Nineveh books
- Inspiring Music: Word of God Speak–by Mercy Me, Let it Rain–by Michael W. Smith, Psalm 36–by Third Day, My Deliverer is Coming–by Rich Mullins, Here I am to Worship–by Tim Hughes, and Peace on Earth–by Casting Crowns
- Writing Hours for Nineveh books—2,994 hours and 28 min.
- # of Teen Books Read for Research–279
- # of Non-Fiction Research Sources–35
- # of Internet Research Sources—innumerable
- # of Interviews Conducted–2
Step by Step
- September 29, 2003–I enroll in the class Writing & Selling Children’s Books from the Institute of Children’s Literature. This was my second class with the institute.
- October 2, 2003–I receive a pamphlet about my instructor, Bonny Becker, and instructions for completing Assignment #1. I fill out a questionnaire, write a letter to my instructor, and send her information about two book ideas. The first idea was for a middle grade novel called Clash of the Klutzes. The second was for a YA novel called Nineveh. I had already done quite a bit of research (acquiring people’s klutzy stories) for the middle grade story and was certain that my instructor would like that one best.
- November 6, 2003–I receive my first assignment back from Bonny. In her letter, Bonny raised many questions about the depth of my Clash of the Klutzes idea, making it clear that I needed to have more than just a bunch of funny true life stories. Bonny liked the Nineveh idea best which surprised me. It was where my heart leaned, but I felt I wasn’t skillful enough yet to write it and was frightened of tackling something so difficult.
- November 19, 2003–My sweet firstborn son is born!
- January 22, 2004–I receive assignment #2 back in the mail. Yes, I went with my heart and chose to write Nineveh. This assignment included a market rationale, my working title, readership, age level, estimated length (30,000 words ha ha ha), genre, story line, theme, setting, time frame, plot summary, and a character analysis of seven different characters. Bonny loved the idea and was very encouraging, but had many questions that shook up my world some. I was thrilled because she said the idea was really strong, but terrified because she really made me think and wonder how in the world I was going to accomplish all of this, especially with my first baby only two months old. Bonny told me to be prepared to do a lot of research and sent two instructional pamphlets. One about story structure and another about letting story characters solve their own problems.
- April 2, 2004–I receive back Assignment #3 which consisted of a first draft of my first chapter, a detailed outline of my next two chapters, and a rough outline of the rest of the book. Bonny had questions galore after reading my first chapter. A great many things were confusing and I tended to have random plot elements that didn’t make sense as far as motivation and theme went. She said to slow down and let the reader get their footing in my world. Despite my best efforts, there was much that needed to be carefully thought through. Who knew that you couldn’t simply write in the full fire of an emotional high, but had to look back and make sure that everything made sense? Three years later I finally met Bonny at a writing conference and she said that of all her students she had never had one improve as dramatically as I did. Now at first this may seem quite impressive, but the cold hard truth of it was that this first chapter was absolutely wretched. Thank God she didn’t crush my dreams because they were pretty fragile at this point in my education.
- September 30, 2004–I receive back Assignment #4. Between Assignment #3 and #4 I spent three months simply doing research. I was really on a roll when I got a letter from the institute asking if I was still alive and where my assignment was. So I put the research aside and wrote the first seven chapters of my story. When I packaged up that first stack of 73 pages to send to Bonny, it was one of those incredible moments. I had never written something so lengthy in my life, never really let myself dream that I could. But here was this enormous stack of paper, words that I had somehow come up with. Now they weren’t very good (I had no idea) but there were a lot of them and I was elated. What Bonny Liked: In this assignment Bonny felt the story world was getting more solid, as well as Nirari’s character. She liked some of my descriptions, details, metaphors, and my prologue. What needed improvement: She said I needed to spell things out more clearly for the reader. I tended to presume that everyone knows about the Biblical story of Jonah, ancient Assyrian superstitions, and beer drinking etiquette. I also tended to suddenly change scenes without sufficient explanation of what was happening. She was still confused as she read. I was vague and needed more details. I didn’t show the characters thought processes as they made major decisions. I also needed more background info on Nirari. I left out Nirari’s reactions to huge story developments. She just did stuff, but without really feeling it. Basically she said I had a lot of work to do. Who knew it would be this hard?
- December 21, 2004–I receive Assignment #5 back in the mail. This lesson consisted of the rough draft of chapters eight through fourteen. What Bonny liked: A better sense of where Nirari was coming from, clearer feelings and emotions, more setting details, images and similes, being realistic with the violent culture, flirtatious banter, and that Nirari gets caught and hurt and makes mistakes. Now for the long list. What needed improvement: Nirari’s mission was unclear, confusion about why she needed to solve the riddle in the first place, a sketchy faith journey, I needed to improve my use of story elements and setting to forward the theme and faith journey, her unlikely instant trust of Assurari, too many coincidences, confusion about Assurari and why he wasn’t in mourning with his father, lack of appropriate reactions from Nirari and other people to big events, and Nirari forgetting to worry about her family. She told me to review a handout on story structure, particularly the section on theme. There are several concerns that she had to repeat and I found that certain story problems were very difficult for me to get right. I would attempt to fix them multiple times and get better but not good enough. I think these may continue to be weak areas that I’ll have to continue watching for in my writing.
- March 4, 2005–I receive Assignment #6 back in the mail. This lesson consisted of the first draft of chapters fifteen through twenty. What Bonny liked: Nirari felt more fleshed out; she had a better sense of her reactions and motives; the scenes were better set; a good weave of setting, description, and action in the first few chapters of this section; liked that I gave Assurari most of Zer-lisir’s plot moments; she was more drawn into the story and more engaged by Nirari and her journey; Nirari’s mission felt clearer; she liked the inherent conflict; She wanted to see the same weaving of setting, description, and action throughout the story. What needed improvement: Setting and descriptive details got lost at the end; characters and situations popped up out of nowhere; needed more details; some confusion during the climax scene; people not acting in a realistic fashion emotionally; improbability with some of Assurari’s reactions; no ending follow up of Assurari’s story; she wanted Nirari to solve the riddle sooner to heighten conflict (which I did end up doing); the realization that Nirari’s actions have caused hurt for people around her, she felt shallow and underdeveloped; she wanted Nirari to be more guilty then she was shown to be.
- June 2, 2005–Bonny sends back Assignment #7. This lesson consisted of a rewrite of chapters one through ten. What Bonny liked: She was impressed with my growth as a writer between drafts; the new details about Assyrian culture; the image of a jar I used to break up major scene changes; the agent I decided to submit to first; she said I had a good eye and way with words when it came to descriptive details and dialog (this was a real shock as dialogue has always been really, really hard for me, guess there is hope that my other areas of weakness might become strengths someday). What needed improvement: The quest and need to solve the riddle still wasn’t well established; Nirari just assumes she has a mission when Jonah is vomited onto the beach; the results of the solved riddle are unclear, what is supposed to happen; her journey away from Nineveh is unclear; why does she think she needs to travel so far; the trek with the caravan is too vague; how old is Hadden; What is the social standing of Nirari’s family; I needed a better set up for both the eclipse and her father becoming king; she wanted to see people’s reactions to these events; it was not believable that Nirari and her mother would simply go along with being transported to the palace; needed to see Nirari’s internal questions about what is going on when she first arrives at the palace; should show more devastation and people getting hurt from the earthquake; needed to show how her father comes to the conclusion that he must sacrifice Hadden; her rescue of Hadden is unclear and sketchy; needed to see her horror that the sacrifice is still going to happen without Hadden; wanted me to show Nirari slink away and not rescue the other babe (therefore I added Nirari’s part in the other babe’s death); I needed to watch in general for a tendency to make big jumps in time and then back fill with sketchy information. Bonny also sent me a pamphlet on coming up with a title.
- August 30, 2005–I receive Assignment #8 in the mail. This lesson consisted of a revision of chapters eleven through twenty, filled out publisher choice forms for my top three publishers and three paragraphs with my rational for submitting to them. What Bonny liked: She said I did a good job of putting the reader into the Assyrian world and keeping them there; liked my footnotes; the better weave of character, setting, and action; the story felt more coherent. What needed improvement: She still didn’t like the current title; didn’t like my chapter titles (admittedly they continued to be horrid despite the fact that I loved them); she was still up in the air about my overall theme; she wanted me to construct one sentence related to Nirari’s main choice during the climax. She told me to post this sentence by my computer as my theme (My sentence was this: Choosing God’s mercy over His justice for ourselves leads us to give mercy instead of justice to others.); she wanted me to construct a story arc for justice vs. mercy where I would plot out which of Nirari’s decisions supported justice and which supported mercy; Nirari’s motivation needed development; Nirari kept forgetting her primary purpose; Nirari’s mood changed dramatically without set up; story events needed to be more logical. She wanted me to write down every scene of the story and answer three questions 1.) Where is Nirari? 2.)What does this event do? 3.) What is her motivation? She wanted it to be more believable that Nirari doesn’t know about Joram’s love and Nirari’s father needed to react to her more.
- October 17, 2005–My second beautiful baby boy is born.
- November 10, 2005–Bonny mails back Assignment #9. Normally this final assignment consists of the submission materials prepared in final form for the first publisher on your list and any chapters that the instructor felt needed further work. But Bonny wanted to see a whole new revision of the entire manuscript since things weren’t coming together like she wanted. What Bonny liked: She liked my author bio; she was thrilled with how the story had grown; she liked the richer description, setting, character, and theme; and she said, (and I quote) I have no doubt you are going to become a published author. (Hope hope hope.) What needed improvement: More about Nirari in the beginning. She wanted a better set up of Nirari’s ordinary world before I tear her life to shreds; she wanted more about her mother and their difficult relationship; more about her father and how he spoiled her; wanted the motivations and reactions of characters to be more realistic and occur right after the event that inspired them; Nirari escaped too many times from too many different people (she was escaping from someone every chapter it seemed and I never noticed). Bonny had a couple of changes for my query letter and wasn’t sure on the format for my synopsis. But she passed me for the class and I received my wall certificate from the institute.
- December 4, 2005–January 21, 2006 I made the changes that Bonny requested in my final class letter and fixed what she marked on the manuscript.
- January 22, 2006–January 28, 2006 I polished my first five pages for a writing conference I hoped to attend. I used The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman as a guide.
- January 29, 2006–February 7, 2006 I did the character quiz and some other character exercises from The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman.
- February 8, 2006–November 7, 2006 I did every applicable exercise from Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. The Tension on Every Page chapter alone took over six weeks. This revision added a lot of depth (and length) to my story.
- November 8, 2006–November 22, 2006 I did the applicable exercises from The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M. Bickham.
- November 23, 2006–January 6, 2007 I applied the information from my More Revisions file to the story. During the writing process I kept a computer file called More Revisions. It messed up my writing to be constantly going back into the text whenever I had a great idea, plus I was never sure which ideas were indeed the great ones. So whenever I had an idea for the story I put it into this file. Then when the time was right I looked through the file, threw out the bad ideas, and worked on applying all of the good ones. I ended up with 43 ideas left and made almost all of those changes to the story.
- January 7, 2007–January 29, 2007 As recommended in It’s a Bunny Eat Bunny World by Olga Litowinsky, I did word searches for certain words (was, that, had, feel, felt) and looked at each occurrence making sure that it was necessary to the text. This knocked my word count down by over 500 words.
- January 30, 2007–February 10, 2007 I did a dialogue polish, removing about 300 unnecessary words.
- February 11, 2007–February 17, 2007 I read my manuscript out loud into a recorder.
- February 18, 2007–March 5, 2007 I listened to the recording of my story and marked any sections that bothered me. I also ordered some more history books on ancient Assyria and transferred some paper notes to my computer files.
- March 6, 2007–March 31, 2007 I looked at all of the places that I marked and attempted to polish them up. When finished I printed up two copies of my manuscript and mailed them to my two first readers.
- April 1, 2007–June 16, 2007 While I waited for feedback from my first readers I did some additional research on ancient Assyria, worked on a file to organize my footnotes, rewrote my first scene according to a critique at an SCBWI conference, made a glossary, and a list of character names.
- June 17, 2007–June 23, 2007 I revised according to my two readers’ notes and printed up two more copies of my manuscript for my next two readers. One was a fellow writer and English major, the other was the most honest, precise, and demanding proofreader I have ever encountered. And despite the fact that she is my best friend, she made hundreds of insightful marks on my copy leaving only twelve pages unscathed out of over 300.
- June 24, 2007–July 24, 2007 While waiting for my writer friend and grammar friend to give feedback, I continued to research ancient Assyria.
- July 25, 2007–August 18, 2007 I revised according to the feedback given by my English major and grammar Nazi friends. (Which was of course priceless and massively helpful.) I also changed the relationship between Nirari and Hadden making it more sisterly and less of a mother’s perspective.
- August 19, 2007 I gave a copy of my manuscript to a teen reader for critique.
- August 19, 2007–September 1, 2007 I applied the new research that I had gathered and mailed a copy of my manuscript to a youth pastor for critique.
- September 2, 2007–September 8, 2007 I transferred my writing notes to my computer files and read the last Harry Potter book.
- September 9, 2007–October 13, 2007 I took a break from my story to give myself a fresh perspective and wrote the content for my website.
- October 14, 2007–October 20, 2007 I polished the website content.
- October 21, 2007–November 3, 2007 I read my story straight through after a six week break and marked passages that needed work.
- November 4, 2007–November 30, 2007 I mope and pray about what elusive problem is making my story so blah and then realize that my transitions are choppy. So I revise the flow for the entire manuscript.
- December 1, 2007– My third beautiful baby boy is born at 6:33am!!!
- December 7, 2007–December 8, 2007 I finish up the final few pages of my pace and flow revision, print the manuscript off for my husband to finally read and shut down Dietrich (my laptop) for two months.
- December 9, 2007–February 1, 2008 I take a break from writing to enjoy my sweet new baby and wait for him to learn to sleep through the night. Also, I decide I need to do more polishing on the first three chapters and tell my husband that he can’t read anymore of the printed manuscript and must wait for the final final final version.
- February 1, 2008–February 10, 2008 I transfer my writing notes from my day planner to the computer, make time charts for the year, get the website construction process going again, do a word search replacing the word “towards” with “toward” in 47 places in my manuscript, make changes to the story that I had written in my notes, and make some changes to the website material.
- February 11, 2008–February 23, 2008 I polish chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the manuscript, especially chapter one and the beautification scene in chapter two.
- February 24, 2008–March 1, 2008 I make a document that contains all of my action scenes involving Nirari fighting. I polish those scenes (about 23 pages) and send them to my long lost cousin Shawn who is a black belt in a couple of different martial arts. He agrees to look at the flow of movement in my action and give me some help.
- March 2, 2008–March 8, 2008 I polish chapters 1, 2, and 3 again.
- March 9, 2008–March 16, 2008 I polish and shrink my website content.
- March 17–March 22, 2008 I mail my ms. to Jill Johansen for critique, and polish my one sentence hook.
- March 23–March 29, 2008 I revise the way that Nirari treats Anzillu in the first scene so that she chooses to go over the edge and treat him badly rather than simply rescue her brother.
- March 30–April 4, 2008 Due to my husband’s insistence that a scar is very important and must have a good story, I revise the explanation for Nirari’s scar.
- April 5–April 12, 2008 I take a break to refill my creative juices and watch season 6 of 24 on DVD. We don’t have TV and so must wait a year to watch our favorite shows when they come out on DVD. But at least once we finally get our hands on a show we can watch the whole thing quickly. Well–as quickly as parents of three children under five can manage.
- April 13–April 19, 2008 I polish the new scar material and transfer my writing notes from my day planner to my computer.
- April 20–June 21, 2008 I e-mail Sally Stuart about a manuscript evaluation of my first three chapters and begin a paragraph edit wherein I look at each individual paragraph in the story in an attempt to give it a beginning, middle, and an end as well as making sure that it is the best paragraph that I can make it.
- June 15–June 28, 2008 I prepare a chapter outline and the first three chapters and send them to Sally Stuart for evaluation.
- June 29–August 2, 2008 I work on my website. It is harder than it looks.
- August 3–August 9, 2008 I revise my manuscript according to feedback from my friend Jill.
- August 10–August 23, 2008 I try to cut chapters 1, 2, 16, and 19 down to under 20 pages like Sally Stuart suggested. I only succeed with two of the four.
- August 24–September 6, 2008 The four chapters that I cut were so much better for it that I do a cut and polish revision on the rest of the manuscript. I become much more ruthless than I have ever been before in my cutting.
- September 7– September 24, 2008–Due to requests from both Jill and Sally Stuart I do a word search throughout the manuscript on the word “liver” and cut some of the usages. Then I go through the entire story one more time to cut or explain any confusing historical references and bits of trivia on Assyrian life. I also write an “Author’s Note” concerning the use of “liver” and “heart” in the ancient world and place it at the beginning of the story.
- September 25–September 27, 2008 My website is finally launched and I print up and present my manuscript to my sweet hubby for him to read!
- September 29–October 4, 2008 I make my final changes to the website and enter my writing notes into my computer file.
- October 6–October 11, 2008 I write a six page synopsis, an author bio, and type my queries into an e-mail. I don’t paste the query in because that seems to mess with the formatting and then I am stuck making a bunch of changes anyway, so decided to just type it in and see if that works.
- October 13–October 18, 2008 I make title pages and a make a file for each agent in my first round of submissions (2 agencies). I put everything that they want for their proposals in that file. If the first agency is interested they want a synopsis, author bio, and three sample pages. If the second agent is interested she wants a synopsis, cover letter, analysis of perspective readers, comparable titles, author bio, and sample chapters. So I get all of these set up in different files and polish each separate package.
- October 21–October 25, 2008 I make some changes to my first chapter and put it up on the website. Add some pictures to the website and make some changes suggested by my husband. I have my best friend/grammar Nazi look at my queries and the sample chapter. Then I make all of the changes that she suggested, mostly, and finally finally after over 5 years on this story I send out my first query.
- November 3–November 8, 2008 I make changes to chapters 2-20 based on a reading by my husband and a partial reading by my cousin who is a martial artist. I wanted Nirari’s movements to be correct during fight scenes so that is why I contacted my cousin. Then I write 10 book club discussion questions and make a document that contains all of the questions that I should or want to ask an agent if one should happen to call. This concludes the writing process for “Overturned.” I am officially finished with everything that I know to do.
- May 24, 2011–October 29, 2011–I attend the 2011 Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal and one editor and one agent request a proposal for “Overturned”. But two different editors tell me that they aren’t really interested in stand alone titles and I have never thought of dividing “Overturned” up into multiple books before but it makes sense. I prepare my proposal and the agent tells me to wait to send it until I have divided up the book to my liking. So I set out to make my one large book into two smaller ones. “Daughter of the Decoy King” and “Overturned”.
- December 2, 2011–January 15, 2012–I prepare to enter a writing contest. After making up mock contest entries and sending them with the scoresheet (that I got off their website) to my lovely sister. I begin to use her helpful critiques to improve my work for the actual contest.
- March 2012–August 2012–Taking the advice of an editor at a conference four years ago, I have an idea for a modern story that will ease the reader into Ancient Assyria. I begin to write a short story about one of Nirari’s descendants who is given a vision of the past when she gets clobbered by some runaway luggage in the airport. I snowflake the short story and once I am finished writing it, I will divide it into four pieces and insert it into my two Nineveh books at the beginning and end of each book.
- August 2012–September 2012–I send my short story (which ended up being 14,773 words long) to Sarah, Rolana, and Jon Johansen. Then after their wonderful feedback I revise and polish just in time to be surprised by being able to attend the ACFW conference in Dallas with Becca Whitham. Thanks Nathan and Becca!!!
- October 2012–December 2012–When a publishing house I met with at the ACFW conference requests to see the full manuscript I spent several days reading four years worth of the archived blogs written by their editors. I then go through both Nineveh books and revise according to everything that I learned from their blog entries.
- January 2013–October 2013 I revise both books according to notes from an editor and critiques from my critique partner Jen. This happens because I receive a very nice but firm rejection letter from the editor with my full manuscript, since she gives several suggestions for improvement I set out to revise both books again. I also work through Susan May Warren’s writing book “Deep and Wide” and make improvements to both Nineveh books.
- September 2013— Jen and I critique each other’s first five pages and short synopsis so that we can enter the ACFW First Impressions Contest again. I discover that I overuse the word “even” a lot and I spend several days going over both Nineveh manuscripts to take out as many uses of the word as I can.
- October 2013–I’m all done revising with the writing book “Deep and Wide” but Jenn and I are still exchanging chapters and revising our manuscripts that way. I’m about half way done with this intensive revision of the first Nineveh book.
- April 7, 2014–I finally finish revising the first Nineveh book with my critique partner Jenn. It has been over a year that we have been exchanging chapters and now I have finished the revisions on the final chapter of book one after her last critique. Due to my partnership with Jenn I have accidentally added 17,524 words to my manuscript which is about 58 pages. Ooops! Well, Jenn is always asking very good questions, which inspires me to find out the answers. It is a much better book though, due to a whole lot of work from both of us. The word count is now 78,698 words.
- April 14, 2014–At the NWCWA Conference an editor from a house that rejected a full of this ms. tells me that I can resubmit to her if I do a revision softening some of the violence and making sure that it is off stage. When I started writing this, my goal was to make Ancient Assyria real, now I start a revision in which I look to see if there is a way to tell the story and have the impact of the violent culture without having so much of the violence in the text.
- July 8, 2014– Although I was a semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest, I did not final. But I did get back 6 critiques of my first 15 pages and synopsis for my effort. I am going to revise my Genesis entry and then the whole ms. according to this feedback. I also get a letter expressing interest in my story from an agent. She says she loves my writing in ch.1 but isn’t as invested in the story when it switches to Nirari’s viewpoint. So I revise ch. 2 on my own, send it to Jenn, revise that according to her critique, then when I go through the whole ms. with my Genesis feedback I make sure that the changes I made in ch. 2 follow through the whole story. I also look for awkward parts I have missed and take out my favorite Darling. That scene with the ancient Babylonian curse for one who is peed upon by a dog. It does not further the plot, so I finally let it go. I’ve been holding onto it for years, but this agent mentioned that she doesn’t have time to take on writers who need a lot of editing, so I’ve got to have my ms. at its very best.
- September 14, 2015—I get the chance to submit my first Nineveh book to a publisher that I have been watching since they began two years ago. They are opening up submissions for just the month of September. Although my dream agent told me “No, write something else and send that to me.” I just keep on hoping for this story.
- May 9, 2016-June 21, 2016–I start revising the first Nineveh book again based upon two rejection letters (for 2 different manuscripts) from an agent I really like. I pitch this story at a writer’s conference and get a request to see a proposal and full manuscript from an editor at a large Christian publishing house. I continue to revise making certain that the main character is sympathetic right off the bat and that her personal goal is clear. I want the story as perfect as I know how to make it before I send in that submission. I finish up my edit after cutting 791 words. My word count for “Daughter of the Decoy King” is now 75,380 words.
- July and August 2016–I submit my manuscript, the editor says she loves it and passes it on to three other editors. I try not to get my hopes up. Folks have liked my writing before and still not chosen my story. While I chew my fingernails to stubs waiting, I pull out the second Nineveh book which I haven’t done much to for about four years and start another revision, trying to get the second book caught up to where the first book is now with regards to both story growth and polish.
- September 2016–I do not get an offer from this editor. What I do get is some wonderful compliments on my writing, editing suggestions, and the encouragement to get an agent and then resubmit. The agent I like, tells me to revise according to this editor’s notes and then she’ll look at the story again. I am supposed to take out the modern day story, cut any extra scenes I can, deepen the emotion in the scenes that remain, and put the two books back together again. Both books together are now 136,336 words. I need to get this under 100,000 words, preferably 90,000. Cutting out the modern story gets me down to 118,934 words. I have a ways to go.
Writing process for L.M.R.
Inspiring Music: Devoted by The Newsboys, Grace Like Rain
Writing Hours for L.M.R. 1,799 hours and 29 min.
# of Teen Books Read for Research 122.3
# of Non-Fiction Research Sources 7
# of Interviews Conducted 5
- December 15, 2008–I finally put Overturned behind me and start on my next book idea, L.M.R.
- December 15, 2008– I make a “Writing Process” section for L.M.R. on my website and start researching ancient Mexico.
- December 15, 2008–February 8, 2009–I research the people and architecture of Ancient Mexico. The Mayan people and the cities of Tulum and Chichen Itza in particular.
- February 09, 2009—March 25, 2009–I research modern Mexico. The area around Cancun and the sacred wells in particular. I buy three books about Mexico. One field guide on plants and animals of the Maya, one field guide on plants and animals of southern Mexico, and Canun and the Yucatan for Dummies. I also create a culture document that has sections for everything that I think I will need to know (caves, kids, clothing, food…) and I find something or many somethings to put into each category of my document. I spend a week putting all of the ideas that I’ve been scribbling on random pieces of paper into the appropriate files on my computer. There were 87 papers total in my stack but some papers had more than one idea for more than one book on them.
- March 26, 2009–July 17, 2009 I find pictures that look like all of my characters, pick names for them on SocialSecurity.com, and do a combination of the outlining exercises from “The Snowflake Guy” and Jim Butcher’s LiveJournal. This leaves me with several pages of description for each character and a chapter outline that has a scene for each chapter with the goal, conflict, and disaster. Plus a sequel for each chapter that is broken down into the emotional reaction, thinking and reasoning reaction, anticipation, and a decision. Then I take my 26 pages of single spaced typed notes from my ideas file for this story and plug them into the chapter outline in a hopefully successful order. I simplify my chapter outline into spreadsheet form with a row for each scene and a column for: goal, conflict, setback, emotional reaction, logic, anticipation, and choice. Then I spend a week redoing the “Setback” column because it inexplicably disappeared from my finished document. Finally the outlining process is complete.
- July 20, 2009–September 23, 2009 I write my rough draft of LMR. On average I write about five chapters a week. I don’t stop to fix things. 61,264 words, 228 pages.
- September 24, 2009–December 21, 2009 I write a prologue and make a calendar for putting story events onto during revision. Then I begin revising each chapter according to a 23 point revisions list that I made up of flaws that I had already spotted in my story. I revise about four chapters a week, spending one writing day revising the four chapters that I had revised the week before. This will make all of my story threads solid and the manuscript complete before I get into revisions based on books and things. This takes my word count up to 73,847 and page count to 270.
- January 1, 2010–April 17, 2010 I revise my novel using “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Donald Maass. It has 34 chapters, each of which has at least one exercise to complete. I do almost all of the chapters. I don’t add plot threads or subplots though, since my manuscript is quite long enough. There is even a chapter on constructing your pitch for your query letter. I am saving the “tension on every page” chapter for when I do a paragraph by paragraph edit later in the year. This book has three main sections: Character Development, Plot Development, and General Story Techniques. After spending over 3 months working on this I have made vast improvements in all three areas. Now I’m at a whopping 85,292 words and 307 pages.
- April 21st 2010–I sent eight pages of dialogue from various characters to my wonderful bilingual aunt who then sought the aid of her wonderful bilingual parents who most graciously translated these bits into authentic Spanish. I am incredibly blessed. Then I switched my English dialogue for the Spanish dialogue and now I have at least one character who speaks almost entirely in Spanish.
- April 25, 2010–May 29, 2010–I did a word search of my manuscript for the words:
Very, Poor, Replied, Hissed, Whispered, Mumbled, Bellowed, Something, Thing, Somehow, Suddenly, Quickly , There is, There are, There was, There were, Just, Really, All, and Now. I took out as many of these words as I could and made sure that the uses of them that I did include made sense.
- May 30, 2010–June 12, 2010–I fixed my riddle and some motivation problems for my villain. Then I went through my whole manuscript and edited all of the “clips” making sure that the “internal” clips and the “external” clips were separated by paragraphs. My manuscript is now 86,785 words and 314 pages.
- June 13,2010–July 10, 2010–I mail my manuscript to two beta readers and read through my manuscript editing each page for tension and each paragraph for a beginning, middle, and end. I also attempt to polish the language.
- July 18, 2010–December 4, 2010 –I take all of my wonderful story ideas and writing notes off of their napkins and stickies and put them into the proper computer files. Then while I await feedback from my first 3 beta readers, I start writing something totally different as a little break. A zombie devotional book for teenage boys, using a pseudonym of course.
- December 5, 2010–January 29, 2011–I use the feedback from my first 2 beta readers to do another revision (Rough Draft #7) of my manuscript. My story goes from being 87,702 words to 90,171 words.
- January 9, 2011–I revise my manuscript according to Sarah’s critique and write my submission materials. I also adjust my story to more closely fit my synopsis.
- February 27, 2011–March 31, 2011–I set out to cut at least 380 words from my manuscript and I do it, and then add at least that much more when I tweak some scenes. And so I keep cutting until I have the word count down 89,237 which takes the page count from 324 to 321.
- October 30, 2011–February 9, 2012–I revise my manuscript according to the helpful critique of my lovely sister Rolana and my husband’s critique of only the first paragraph. Just for your info, that one paragraph critique has given me weeks worth or work…but thank you Hunky Hubby, because it is going to be so so much better. This revision takes my manuscript from 89,053 words to 87,757 words.
- December 23, 2011–January 20, 2012–I begin preparing to enter a writing contest. After Rolana returns my mock contest entry, I revise my pages and synopsis according to her critique.
- May 2, 2014–It has been several years since I looked at more than the first two chapters of this story. I have learned so much with my critique partner Jenn and in writing a novella ms. on a dare with Rolana. I never sent this manuscript to any agents although I did enter contests. I am setting out to go through this entire story and make it into something that I can submit. I need to change my villain (he might not be a villain after all, I’m not sure) I need to change my heroine, I need to simplify and deepen the plot and character arch…I need to cut superfluous words and add ones that make sense. Anyway, all that I’ve learned over the last few years, I’m going to implement and see what I have in the end. Oh, my word count at the beginning of this revision is 88,280 words. I hope to cut quite a bit. –I finished revision #10 of LMR and ended with a word count of 78,183 words. That means I cut over 10,000 words from this story. It still needs more work, but the thing is looking much better.
- July 9, 2015—I start LMR revision #11. I want to fine tune the story. Make the character and plotting changes I did in the last big edit consistent throughout, and cut and polish.
- September 1, 2016– I finally get back to revision #11. I’ve written 2 new books (a romance novella and a middle grade novel) since I started this revision and I want to get this story to the place where I can finally send it to some beta readers for feedback.
- September 18, 2016–I finish revision #11 wherein I realize that four of my chapters in the middle are not pulling their own emotional weight. I cut each chapter out, one by one, put it into a new document and then rewrite it, keeping the necessary plot elements but changing the entire plot all around the core. I then paste the chapter back into my main story. I am much happier with the end results and send the story on to some wonderful people who have offered to read it for me: Mom, Johnnie Sue, Rolana, Heather, Jill, and Aunt Liz. Let’s call that Revision#12, although I did not read the whole thing over again, the story did change significantly.
- September 27, 2016–Now while I’m awaiting feedback from my beta readers, I’m going to take this story through the fiction university “Revise Your Novel in 31 Days” course to see if I have all of the elements I need to make this succeed.
- October-December 2016–Ok, I started getting feedback over these months and jumped back and forth between revising by using that fun online class and revising according to reader feedback. I received feedback from my aunt Liz, Mom, Jill, and Heather. The story smoothed out so much as they noted points of awkwardness. Then my crit partner Jenn jumped in and said that she could read some of it and of course she had tons of valuable feedback for me. Then, I won a free chapter critique from the very agent that I want to send this to…and she tore it to shreds. Which was good. Take a breath, yep, so very good. Because she gave me the fabulous idea of simply putting what I’d written aside and rewriting the first chapter from scratch as a linear scene without worrying about backstory or anything. Which is how I’d written it originally, but then I got advice and went and changed things and made my story worse, but guess what? After writing the scene fresh, my main character came across as much more sympathetic and so that advice was just gold. Painful gold, but gold nonetheless. So, the revising continues. I’m hoping to submit this in January…we shall see.
- February 1, 2017–I finish revision#15. In two years of revising, I have taken this story from 88,280 down to about 77,000 words and then back up to 87,000 words and now it is down to 75,915 words. The total amount that I have cut from this story (I saved the cuts in a file) is 32,303 words. That is the same size as one of the novellas I wrote for Pelican Book Group, all words that I’ve thrown out. I am really hoping that this story is finally ready to see the light of day. I’ll know soon enough, I’m just waiting on a critique from one more person and then I can’t think of much else to do to the poor thing.
- March 10, 2017– Today I sent off Losing My Religion to a literary agent I really like and now must hope for the best and distract myself by writing something new. The final word count for the story is 77,853 words and the number of words in my “LMR cuts file” is now at 33,099 words. So in my last big bout of revision, I cut 33,099 words out of the story and put back in 22,672 new words to get to the story that I have today. That’s a whole lot more work than I expected, but I’m much happier with the tale that I have today than the one that I had on file two or three years ago. That in itself if a victory.
- May 26, 2017– I received a rejection letter for Losing My Religion from the agent I am interested in. She feels that I need to work harder on making my admittedly very protagonist likable. She does give me a coupon for her plotting class and I sign up for that in an attempt to simplify my plot and work on that character motivation and likability.
- June 14, 2017–I finish up an edit based on the literary agent’s online class and then in a leap of foolish bravery, send the ms. to an editor that I met at a conference last year. Her due date is approaching and I am hoping that she will have time to look at my story before leaving for maternity leave.
- August 4, 2017–The editor does look at my story before her baby is born and sends me my very best rejection yet. Apparently, I have solved my “liking the protagonist” problems, for she does not mention this. But she says that the second half of the story feels like fantasy and the first like contemporary and that the one thing I lack is a working story structure. I purchase a new book on plotting and set out to make the story work.
Writing Process For F.T.C.
Inspiring Music: Devotion–by The Newsboys, Mess of Me–by Switchfoot
Writing Hours for F.T.C.–109 hours and 2 minutes
Step by Step
March 11, 2011–May 20, 2011–I make a writing process page on my website for book #2 in the LMR series and decide to begin work on the next book while I await final feedback from Sarah and Rolana. My first step is to work on a “Snowflake” for FTC.
February 9, 2012–March 2012–I finally stop revising Overturned and LMR and get back to making my snowflake.
After reviewing my plot…I totally give up on this story.
Writing Process for Denmark Romance Novella “Copenhagen Cozenage”
Writing Hours for Denmark Romance–371 hours and 58 minutes
Step by Step
January 27, 2014—I spend a week researching and making my outline according to the “Story Engineering” writing book by Larry Brooks and the 15 beats outline from the blog “savethecat.com”
February 3, 2014–I start writing my rough draft and doing more research along the way.
February 28, 2014–I finish my rough draft. It is 23,108 words long. The finished product has to be between 30,000 and 35,000 words so that only leaves me about 12,000 words in which to make the story good. I only have 6 weeks to revise until the writer’s conference. This is the idea of a crazy person…but it’s also a lot of fun.
March 12, 2014–I finish my first revision of the romance novella. For this pass through I worked on smoothing out the pacing and action so that my character didn’t just jump from one thing to the next but actually had transitions. I also added some details about the setting and tried to make the mystery make more sense and add a bit more romantic tension. My manuscript is now 27,568 words in length which puts it very close to the required 30,000 words. My concern now is that I’ll go over the word limit as I continue to revise. Only four more weeks to make it good!
April 6, 2014–I have gone through the manuscript one more time and smoothed out any awkward areas. I made Morgan have more interactions with her cousin and added a chapter about the crown jewels. Then I fixed the dark night of the soul so that it tied into the beginning better and worked on moving backstory around in the first chapter so that it wasn’t so clunky. My word count is now 31,927. Hopefully I am getting close. The conference is only 4 days away!
April 14, 2014–After listening to the editor’s lecture at the conference, I go through the ms. one more time trying to revise it according to what I learned.
April 25, 2014–After pitching my ms. at the conference and having the editor request a full, I finish listening to a vampire book on my drive home from the conference. The book was not a strict romance, more of a “girl kicks vampire butt” kind of story. But the “slow burn” romance within the story worked really well. So I went through the entire novel and wrote down all of the parts that had the hero doing something to make the romance progress. After making this document I looked it over and noticed 4 things that the author employed regularly. She had her descriptions of the hero scattered through the book and they had something to do with the action at hand, the hero was calm and had a plan in stressful crazy situations when everyone else was panicked, the hero put the heroines interests ahead of his own getting her coffee and taking care of her wounds and worrying for her, and the hero sacrificed for the heroine. Then I started a revision where I am trying to add some of these elements to my own romantic novella. The ms. is now 33,722 words long. I also send more chapters of it to Jenn my critique partner and revise accordingly. After Revising the whole thing with Jenn the novella gets up to about 35,800 words. I then have to cut.
July 26, 2014–I get a contract offer in my inbox from Nicola Martinez at Pelican Book Group.
July 27, 2014–I ask an agent who has my Nineveh ms. if she would like to represent this. She declines, but gives me an idea of how to revise the beginning so that it is better. I revise accordingly.
July 30, 2014–I sign the contract and mail it off to Pelican. Copenhagen Cozenage is sold!
August of 2014–I begin revisions with editor Jamie West.
August 17, 2014—I send in the first official revision to Jamie West.
August 19, 2014–Jamie West e-mailed me back. I made a whole new document for my revisions. I have to do it on the document that they have in Track Changes. I made 3,000 to 4,000 words worth of changes with my critique partner since I first submitted this and now I have to do them all over again in Track Changes on the document that I sent to Pelican back in April. Lots of work ahead of me doing this all over again. Argh! Now I know how to do it right at least.
August 29, 2014—I get my official cover images from Nicola Martinez!
September 1, 2014—I send in the revised first official revision of Copenhagen Cozenage to Jamie West.
October 8, 2014–I send in my second official revision of Copenhagen Cozenage to Jamie West.
September 25, 2015—Copenhagen Cozenage is released, just fourteen years and six months after I started seriously trying to get published!
Writing Process for Athens Romance Novella—Athens Ambuscade
Writing Hours for Athens Romance–191 hours and 25 minutes
Step by Step
September 1, 2014–I start plotting out the story.
September 6, 2014–I start writing the rough draft.
October 14, 2014–I finish the rough draft at 24,901 words.
October 20, 2014–I start my first revision. I finish the first revision at 27,442 and 105 pages.
December 16, 2014–I finish the second revision at 30,117 words and 116 pages. I use “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook” by Donald Maass and some interviews of people who have visited or live in Athens.
March 2015—I finally submit this manuscript to Jamie West my editor.
July 2, 2015—I receive a contract in my inbox from Pelican Book Group for Athens Ambuscade!
August 7, 2015—I send in my first round of edits to Jamie West, my editor.
December, 2015–I go over my Galleys making all of the last minute changes required. Then the publisher website eats my changes and so I do those Galleys again. At least the first 2/3rd. I saved the last bit in a Word document when our internet went down. Now I know to save the whole thing in a Word document and not just on the website.
Middle Grade NaNoWriMo–The Wandering Wood
Writing Hours for WW–623 hours and 13 minutes
Step by Step
October 17th –October 20th 2014–I take twelve hours of writing time and completely outline my first middle grade novel ms. I use Blake Snyder’s 15 point outline as well as Larry Brooks book on Story Engineering. Then I make a chapter outline. I decide on 30 chapters and I have a goal, conflict, disaster, plus a physical and mental reaction and decision for each chapter
November 1st–November 24th–I write the rough draft of the middle grade story. I finish the last chapter at 42,759 words and 160 pages.
November 25th–November 30th–I work on revising the story to try to get it up to the NaNoWriMo length of 50,000 words. Even though I do my own unofficial NaNoWriMo with the ACFW Novel Track group, I want to reach that 50,000 word goal that I have been dreaming of attempting for over a decade. I revise about half of the story and add a few new scenes and finish the month over my goal, at about 50,200 words.
December 1st–December 2nd–I want to finish my first revision of the manuscript before putting it away for awhile so that I can look at it with fresh eyes when I come back. I finish my first revision and the ms. is now 50,703 words and 188 pages long. Now I’m going to set it aside and concentrate on revising my Athens novella idea. Once I submit that story, I will return to this ms. and revise until the writer’s conference in May where I hope to pitch it to agents and editors.
December 16, 2014–I start my second revision of the middle grade NaNoWriMo ms. This time I use the Donald Maass book “Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook”. The story ends up at over 52,000 words.
March 2015–I revise according to Sarah’s notes on the manuscript.
April 2015– I revise according to the feedback from Mom and Johnnie Sue.
May 2015–I read the story aloud to my three boys and revise after finding places with awkward phrases or spots where the story lags. When I finish each chapter, I ask them for suggested changes and revise according their ideas.
August 2015—I revise again and enter the story in Pitch Wars. I am not chosen, but cut out a bunch of useless words and have a great idea to strengthen the internal stakes because of feedback on my query that a mentor gave me.
October 15, 2015–October 30, 2015– I revise according to the feedback from Pitch Wars, deepening the inner stakes and polishing the prose. I finish with the ms. at 51,226 words and 195 pages.
December 2015–I receive some helpful feedback from a literary agent about my story. Due to her comments I make a list of changes regarding foreshadowing and mystery in the early chapters and decide to revise every page of my manuscript using the “tension on every page” writing exercise from Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. Once the revision is finished, I send the first chapters to Jenn, my critique partner, and start revision #9 according to her feedback as well as using the helpful ideas that came to me in the middle of the night and ideas I had while praying for ideas.
January 2016–After hearing back from Jenn about chapters 5-8, I set out to revise the whole manuscript (ch. 1 through ch. 33) again. Finally, I complete revision #10 by the end of the month. The ms. has increased in length by 5,578 words between these last too revisions. It is now 56,804 words long and has much more tension.
March 2016–I set out to revise the ms. “one more time” before I resubmit to a literary agent who suggested that I send the story back to her after my revisions. I sent the first three chapters to The Hunky Hubby and revise according to his suggestions. I attempt to get into a free “first five pages” class online. I work on my first five pages for several days, even starting out with a blank document and rewriting some of it. I do not get into the class (it filled up in under 60 seconds and my e-mail has a 3 minute delay on deliveries) but my pages are greatly improved through the exercise. I resend the first 73 pages of the story to Jenn and get feedback once again. Then I send her the first 5 pages that I just redid for the class that I failed to get into. Now, with Jenn’s notes in hand, I set out to make this story shine like a lazer-eyed robot of destruction that has just driven through a radioactive wasteland! Or something like that . . . . Now, I organize my “WW Revision” file so that the I can go through the manuscript three different times, once for the three different protagonists. I have a list of revisions for each protagonist. And finally, I revise according to the ideas that don’t fit in with one of my three heroes but are for improving the general story. Then I let the Hunky Hubby read the first 5 pages and realize that I have actually made them worse. I change the opening back to something between the old and new first five pages and feel that I arrive at something that is better than either. I resubmit to the agent who told me to submit again if I revised and hope for the best. The story is now 59,893 words long.
Writing Process for The Volk Advent
Writing Hours For Siberian Christmas Novella–214 hours 14 minutes
January 2015–I outline the story using Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” and chapter outlining.
February 1-February 28th 2015–I write the rough draft keeping track of my words with ACFW’s Novel Track Writing group. I set a goal of 20,000 words and end the story at over 30,000 words.
April 1st to April 2015–I revise my story with the goal of submitting it to Jamie my editor at Pelican by May 1st.
August 26, 2015—I receive a book contract in my inbox for The Volk Advent. This is the first book that I have written all on my own, without any feedback. I am really nervous, but since it was a Christmas title with a firm deadline no one could look at it for me in time. I’m so glad that I have an editor and so thrilled that they love it.
September 22, 2015—I send in my first set of edits for The Volk Advent and realize that I have the absolute most gorgeous cover in the world!
October–I get my galleys and go over my book painstakingly line by line while The Hunky Hubby reads it for the first time and notices important things like where I said “headless” instead of “heedless”. Thank you, Hunky Hubby!!! I also make changes to my hero’s dialogue and balancing out his use of Russian phrases that I gleaned from a really cool documentary on trappers in Siberia, making sure that they were sprinkled evenly throughout. I fixed my wolf howling scene on the first page and probably drove my editor insane, but I am pleased with the finished product and so all that fiddling was worth it. At least I think so.
Writing Process For Destination Romance—Ocean Shores Salvage
Writing Hours for Ocean Shores Salvage—56 hours 7 minutes
July 2015—I outline my story
August 1st 215—I start my rough draft and hope to finish it in September
September 30, 2015–I finish the rough draft of Ocean Shores Salvage at 31,323 words. I will take a break from this story and do something else so that I can come back and edit with fresh eyes.
Writing Process For MG Adventure–The Deep
Writing Hours For The Deep–102 hours and 28 minutes
October 2015–I outline the second book in the Wandering Wood series preparing myself for NaNoWriMo
November 2015–I attempt NaNoWriMo for the second time using ACFW Novel Track to keep track of my words rather than the official NaNo site. This year I set my goal for 50,000 words instead of 30,000 and with heart pounding once again attempt what feels like the impossible. Despite the crazy pace, I finish my rough draft on the last day of the month with 50,455 words.
Spider Gap–A Pure Amore Romance
Writing Hours For Spider Gap–244 hours and 20 minutes
December 2015–My editor-in-chief calls me up and asks if I am interested in writing a book for Pelican’s Pure Amore imprint. I have no idea what I would write, but tell her that I would love to if I can come up with a good idea for a Pure Amore story. I bring it before the Lord and tell Him that I would love to write this book, but don’t have any story spark. By the end of the day I e-mail Nicola back with my plan and she loves it. I am always amazed, every time, when God shows His tender care and interest in the small daily struggles that we face. Thank you Lord for sparking this story in my mind and heart. I only pray that I can do it justice.
January 2016–I brainstorm on the story idea, decide on my 15 plot points, and write up a chapter by chapter outline. Although I went on this hike as a teen, I also spend some time researching the area so that my impressions of this beautiful wilderness hike are fresh.
February 2016–I sign up for ACFW’s novel track for the month of February with a goal of 30,000 and the intention to write my entire rough draft in a single month. I finish on the last day of February with 33,378 words and a complete rough draft!
April 2016–I begin revisions using helpful critique notes from my mom, Johnnie Sue, and my critique partner Jenn.
June 1, 2016–I send Spider Gap in to my editor although it is 501 words too big. Hopefully in the editing process we can hash that out, but I wanted to submit on the day that I said I would rather than wait until the word count was perfect. My ending word count is 45,501.
October 2016–I get edits back from my editor and have 20 days to go over what she changed and change those changes into something that works for both of us but in my voice. I also add a recipe for the cookies that appeared in the story…because who doesn’t want to bake cookies after reading a good book?
Writing Process for Puppy Princess #1
Writing Hours For Puppy Princess vs. The Squirrel of the Apocalypse
= 88 hours and 45 minutes
March 2017— After much urging from my three offspring, I plot out three Puppy Princess chapter books. Tales that are loosely based upon the antics of our second Newfoundland dog, Princess Leia Freyja Wilks.
April 2017— My intention is to make April my own personal NaNoWriMo month and complete three separate rough drafts for three Puppy Princess books. What actually happens is that yes, I make my goal of 30,000 words, but no I do not complete three manuscripts. I do, however complete one rough draft for a Puppy Princess book and a third of the rough draft for another romance. Not too shabby with all that was going on in April. After asking advice of a publishing pro, reading up on chapter books, and thinking and praying, I decide that it will be a middle grade novel rather than a chapter book.
Writing Process For Yellowstone Pure Amore
Writing Hours for Yellowstone Pure Amore = 80 hours and 17 minutes
March 2017– During CamasCon, the board game camp that my husband runs and my children love to attend, I spend my hours curled up on the camp couch plotting out stories. I complete the detailed plot maps for four different books, one of which is a romance set in Yellowstone National Park where our family vacationed/adventured last summer.
April–May 2017– I complete the rough draft for this comedic romance that I hope to sell to Pelican Book Group for their Pure Amore line.